GOP gover­nors lay out pol­icy di­rec­tion

Seeks steer clear of agenda de­fined by Wash­ing­ton

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

SCOTTS­DALE, ARIZ. | In the ab­sence of a clear agenda from a Congress widely la­beled as dys­func­tional, Repub­li­can gover­nors used their an­nual meet­ing to iden­tify broad poli­cies they be­lieve the na­tion needs to em­brace, rang­ing from ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lic em­ployee-pen­sion and tax re­form to reg­u­la­tory relief, trans­porta­tion and en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture.

At their con­fer­ence this week, the 30 Repub­li­can gover­nors went all out to make the case that they, not Wash­ing­ton, are still the lab­o­ra­to­ries of democ­racy and in­no­va­tion. Wash­ing­ton in­tra- and in­ter­party bick­er­ing un­til now has largely drowned out their mes­sage and hid­den their ac­com­plish­ments, they ar­gued.

“We have a great story to tell — it’s about cre­at­ing jobs,” said South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Ha­ley.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a year into his job, said the con­trast be­tween his ex­pe­ri­ence in Congress and work­ing with his fel­low “Repub­li­can gover­nors has been very eye-open­ing.” He too said Wash­ing­ton is dys­func­tional — “not only broke, but bro­ken.”

“I’m more con­vinced than ever that the cure for what ails this na­tion will come form our na­tion’s state cap­i­tals than it will from the na­tion’s cap­i­tal,” Mr. Pence said.

Dur­ing the Rea­gan era in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, and for a while af­ter­ward, Repub­li­can gover­nors got more na­tional at­ten­tion than now, in large part be­cause they won me­dia cov­er­age and pub­lic at­ten­tion as the in­no­va­tors on such is­sues as wel­fare re­form, work­fare, school vouch­ers, char­ter schools and en­ter­prise zones.

The big names back then in­cluded Wis­con­sin Gov. Tommy Thomp­son and Michi­gan Gov. John En­gler, among oth­ers.

So now it’s up to this gen­er­a­tion of GOP gover­nors to break through the din and make their case.

“The gover­nors are lead­ing their states on find­ing so­lu­tions to th­ese is­sues and to the prob­lems fam­i­lies and busi­nesses face, com­pared to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. which ap­pears to be dys­func­tional, dis­or­ga­nized, with a lot of par­ti­san bick­er­ing go­ing on in Congress,” Ok­la­homa Gov. Mary Fallin told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Re­minded that her fel­low Repub­li­cans con­trol the U.S. House, she said, “but the whole Wash­ing­ton brand is dys­func­tional. Noth­ing is go­ing to be done in Wash­ing­ton right now.”

Ms. Fallin is one of the most con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can gover­nors and is also the first Repub­li­can woman to head the Na­tional Gover­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, made up of the gover­nors of ev­ery state, re­gard­less of party af­fil­i­a­tion. She boasts a mile-long list of man­age­rial posts, from head­ing up a na­tional ho­tel chain to serv­ing as Ok­la­homa’s lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, then as a mem­ber of the U.S. House and now as gov­er­nor.

She said her col­leagues in state­houses around the coun­try are ad­dress­ing “ed­u­ca­tion re­form, in­fra­struc­ture, keep­ing taxes low, mak­ing gov­ern­ment smaller, more ef­fi­cient. The Repub­li­can gover­nors are fo­cus­ing on jobs, cre­at­ing stronger busi­ness cli­mate for the cre­ation of jobs and the re­ten­tion of jobs.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who suc­ceeded Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal on Thurs­day as Repub­li­can Gover­nors As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man, rat­tled off an even more ex­ten­sive list of re­forms and in­no­va­tions that Repub­li­can gover­nors can take credit for and that work — un­like much of what the White House and Congress do, he said.

“Through­out the last day and a half of this con­fer­ence, what I've heard from gover­nors all across the coun­try, whether it's John Ka­sich in Ohio or Scott Walker in Wis­con­sin or [the gover­nors] sit­ting up here with me, is we talk about the com­mon sense so­lu­tions that we're bring­ing to the peo­ple of our state and the things that are get­ting done on their be­half,” he said at a morn­ing press brief­ing that also fea­tured Mr. Pence — a 12-year vet­eran of the U.S. House — Mrs. Ha­ley and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mr. Ka­sich, who was chair­man of the House Bud­get Com­mit­tee dur­ing his days as a U.S. con­gress­man, once made a run for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion and is again be­ing talked about here as a pos­si­ble 2016 can­di­date. His straight­for­ward, no-non­sense ap­proach and dry — some­times bit­ing — hu­mor in deal­ing with peo­ple and prob­lems re­mind his fel­low gover­nors of the man who could be a pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion ri­val, Mr. Christie.

But Thurs­day was the New Jersey gov­er­nor’s time to shine and he did — helped by a land­slide re-elec­tion this year that has made him the fla­vor of the month for the me­dia — and for many vot­ers, the polls sug­gest.

Mr. Christie didn't dis­ap­point on his first day on the job, ar­rang­ing a sur­prise lun­cheon visit for his col­leagues from for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Arkansas gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Asa Hutchin­son, the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion chief un­der Mr. Bush, flew here as the in­vited guest of the or­ga­ni­za­tion he hopes to join.

"Real change in our na­tion is go­ing to hap­pen within the states, not Wash­ing­ton,” he said in an in­ter­view. “We see the con­stant grid­lock in Wash­ing­ton and it is clear that things aren't get­ting done.”

Echo­ing what vir­tu­ally ev­ery­one one of the as­sem­bled gover­nors said at one point or another at this two-day con­fer­ence, Mr. Hutchin­son, also a for­mer U.S. House mem­ber, said his “num­ber one pri­or­ity is job cre­ation and grow­ing the econ­omy in Arkansas. I just pro­posed a mid­dle class in­come tax re­duc­tion plan that I be­lieve will spur eco­nomic growth.”

He said he also be­lieves that ed­u­ca­tion “is a vi­tal part of the job cre­ation equa­tion and I am com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing a world-class ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Arkansas."

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Ha­ley (sec­ond from left) speaks dur­ing a news brief­ing for the Repub­li­can Gover­nors As­so­ci­a­tion an­nual con­fer­ence with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (left), Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (sec­ond from right) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (right) on Thurs­day in Scotts­dale, Ariz.

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